The investing landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years. We've seen new technology drop commissions and expenses substantially (to $0 for most), new tools helping investors, and a whole lot of competition to stay at the top of the pack.
So, with all these changes, who do you (the readers) think is the best online stock broker in 2022? We have been polling our audience annually and we're excited to share the best investing platforms with you!
We break down the top five online stock brokers chosen by readers, along with some notable mentions, especially for certain use cases. We also highlight any bonus offers these companies currently have. If you're not using a top online stock broker yet, now is the time to make the switch!
What's interesting to see this year is all of the FinTechs have fallen out of the top 5 - which is a big change from prior years!
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Fidelity took the top pick this year among all the brokerage and stock trading apps. They have a large amount of commission-free funds, low expenses, and a full range of account types to choose from. Even if you don't invest with a commission free fund, they are $0 for commissions for stocks, ETFs, and options trades.
Furthermore, many people are familiar with Fidelity because (along with Vanguard) they are one of the largest 401k plan administrators. That's why we name Fidelity our Best Online Broker for Retirement.
Plus, unlike Vanguard, Fidelity has offices nationwide. While almost everything can be done online, being able to easily go to an office can be helpful every now and then.
Fidelity Bonus Offers: After going commission-free, Fidelity dropped their bonus offers.
Vanguard was the runner up this year, dropping a spot from last year, and it makes sense for a variety of reasons. Vanguard is stil consistently the low price index fund leader - and when you invest directly with Vanguard, you can potentially avoid commissions and fees on your mutual fund purchases. However, Vanguard had several hiccups with it's online platform and app (even though the re-designed app is modern and easy to use).
Furthermore, Vanguard offers the full range of account types, from IRAs to Solo 401k's, to 529 plans and HSAs.
The big drawback to Vanguard is that they aren't as great to use for products outside of their own. Also, if you dive into the details on some of their products (like their Solo 401k), it's not always the most robust available.
Vanguard Bonus Offers: Vanguard doesn't run any bonus offers... maybe they're just too good for that they don't need to entice you?
3. Charles Schwab
Schwab has been moving up the rankings for the last few years - reaching third place this year in our list of the best online stock brokers.
What people love about Schwab is their great trading platform (which is commission-free) combined with a solid banking product, which other that Fidelity, most of the others here don't offer.
Furthermore, they have no purchase minimums for their mutual funds, so you can build an extremely low cost portfolio at Schwab using popular funds like Schwab Total Stock Market Index (SWTSX). And they also moved to $0 account minimums for most products.
Schwab Bonus Offers: They do offer a refer-a-friend bonus of up to $1,000 if you can get an invite!
4. TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade is another company that's consistently at the top of the pack. We love TD Ameritrade's app, which we named as one of the best free investing apps. Plus, their Thinkorswim platform is top-notch for traders.
We're watching and waiting to see how Schwab handles the acquisition of TD Ameritrade, which as completed last year. But as of now, no major changes are occuring.
TD Ameritrade is also on the commission-free bandwagon, offering $0 commissions on stock, option, and ETF trades.
E*TRADE made it's way back onto this the list after a few years of not making the cut. E*Trade has been working hard to compete with the other companies on this list, dropping to commission-free pricing and improving it's interface.
However, we would say they still generally lag in terms of usability compared to the companies above, and their customer service is lacking (they even eliminated online chat last year for many features).
They do have a pretty loyal following, and it will be interesting to see how J.P. Morgan handles them now that they are part of the company.
These honorable mentions didn't make the top 5, but they are really worth a look if you want someone else to do the work for you when it comes to investing and setting up your portfolio.
These are companies that got votes and interest from our audience, but not enough to crack the top of the list.
M1 Finance is a relative new comer but they've been doing some amazing things with low cost investing and banking.
What makes M1 Finance so great is that it allows you to setup a low cost portfolio for free. This portfolio can be one of their automated portfolios, or you could setup one of your own with almost any combination of ETFs and stocks. And for stocks, that includes investing in fractional shares as well.
Once you setup your portfolio, M1 helps you automatically re-balance when you deposit more money into your account. And when you sell, it also helps you re-balance by selling overweight items in your portfolio.
Plus, they offer a great banking product and even allow you to borrow against your portfolio with M1 Borrow.
The only real drawback to M1 is that it doesn't consider all of your portfolio - you need to do that. Also, it doesn't connect with platforms like Quicken or Personal Capital. You need to use their dashboard to track your portfolio.
M1 Finance Bonus Offer: You can get up to $2,500 if you transfer an account over.
Wealthfront made it's way back into the honorable mentions after being missing for a few years. They're not really a brokerage firm, but a robo-advisor. And we've consistently named Wealthfront our pick for the best robo-advisor for high net worth individuals.
Wealthfront has become a popular choice simply because people want to set and forget their investments - simply deposit money and let the system do it's thing. Wealthfront makes it easy.
The big drawback here is the cost. Wealthfront charges a 0.25% asset-under-management fee for the ability to invest on their platform and have them take care of your portfolio.
Wealthfront Bonus Offer: None.
Betterment is a bit different that almost all the rest of these because they are a true robo-advisor. However, for those people that don't want to invest themselves, Betterment is a top notch choice for where to invest.
What makes Betterment great is that it's so easy to get started investing. You simply open an account, answer a few questions, and make a deposit. Betterment takes care of the rest.
The biggest drawback is cost. Their pricing is very transparent - 0.25% for their basic digital plan, and 0.40% for their premium plan. However, the more you have under management with them, the more it will cost you. $50,000 will cost you $125 per year in management fees.
However, for those that don't want to ever think about their portfolio, a small, transparent management fee might be the way to go.
Betterment Bonus Offer: Up to 1 year managed free.
Robinhood has always been a controversial online broker and last year saw a lot of issues - especially around app outages, trading fiascos, and more. As a result, Robinhood dropped out of the top 5.
Robinhood offers truly commission free trading. Like $0. Nada. Nothing. They were the first to offer this, but now everyone does.
However, Robinhood is the only one on this list that supports cryptocurrency trading on their platform.
It does come with some drawbacks beyond the media. The biggest is that they don't support many popular account types - specifically IRAs, but also joint accounts, trusts, and custodial accounts.
However, it's free!
Robinhood Bonus Offers: Get a random share of stock when you refer a friend.
It was interesting to see the shift back to the "old guard" of investing this year. I think many people are realizing that, now given all pricing is the same, the full-service features, ability to open different account types, and reliability, are a lot more popular factors to consider than an app-only investing firm.
Furthermore, everyone on this list has made huge progress in developing top-notch apps. So the experience is really on par (or better) than some of the FinTech firms.
Remember, this was based on an annual survey of our readers and Facebook group. We keep this updated throughout the year, and revisit the rankings annually.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.